archives of global protests

Austin FTAA Solidarity Protest
Wray Stefan 2001-04-22

Anti-Corporate Crawl and Rally at the Capitol

by Stefan Wray

[indymedia Québec]

On April 20, while thousands of people from across North America converged on Quebec to resist the Summit of the Americas where leaders from this hemisphere's nations were negotiating the Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement, people in Austin gathered for an anti-corporate crawl through downtown, passing by media and financial giants, and for a an anti-FTAA rally at the State Capitol.

Anti- Corporate Crawl

In front of the Austin American Statesman, the Austin Independent Media Center, with its Monster That Eats The News, illustrated how news about real issues, like the FTAA and its impact on people's lives, is filtered from mainstream coverage because of the interests of advertisers.

Outside Merrill Lynch and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, at Congress and Cesar Chavez, Billionaires for Free Trade parodied the rich and powerful's desire for free trade agreements like the FTAA.

In front of Starbucks, at the corner of 6th and Congress, someone from Texas Consumers for Safe Food, addressed problems of GMOs - genetically modified organisms - as well as fair trade issues. And former Free Radio Austin programmers performed a skit that showed how large radio monopolies like Capstar - with offices in the same building as Starbucks - were strangling the airwaves, reducing community access.

In front of Chase Bank on Lavaca St., Accion Zapatista reenacted scenes from 1995 when a Chase analyst, in response to Mexico's financial crisis, recommended swift action to annihilate the Zapatistas, who emerged on January 1, 1994, the day when NAFTA - the FTAA's precursor - went into force.

On a corner of the Federal Building Plaza, puppetistas on stilts lifte people's spirits while federal security looked on from across the plaza.

At the entrance to Fox News, people associated with KVRX, a student radio station at the University of Texas, criticized Fox, the global media giant owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Along the route, people entered the streets, slowing down traffic on a Friday afternoon, and filled the sidewalks around each of the sites on the crawl. Police presence for this unpermitted march was negligible.

Anti-FTAA Rally

The anti-FTAA rally at the State Capitol got underway shortly after 5:30 and until 6 was broadcast live on the KOOP evenings news (91.7 FM). Somewhere between 300 and 500 people participated.

Speakers at the rally included: Susana Almanza and Dr. Sylvia Herrera of PODER who talked about how globalization is something effecting us here in our own communities in East Austin; Renu Namjoshi of Texas Consumers for Safe Food, who addressed GMOs; Amy Miller and Sean Hale of the Texas County Green Party, who talked about how to make changes in power through the electoral process; Tamara Ford of Accion Zapatista talked about “One No and Many Yeses” in relation to resisting corporate globalization; Shaun Hopkins of CISPES, who emphasized that we are not merely protesters, but that we are part of a much wider resistance that has a rich history throughout the Americas; Karen Heikkala of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas who drew connections between U.S. economic expansion and military expansion in South America under the guise of the War on Drugs; Adriana Cadena of Texas Immigrant and Refugee Coalition, who talked about how under “free trade” the borders are fluid to capital, but not open to the movement of people; and Amanda Maystead of the International Socialist Organization, who gave an overview of the FTAA.

The speakers were interspersed with performances by Billionaires For Free Trade, a Radical Cheerleader, a Yippie guitarist, and others.

Black, Green, and Blue?

The resistance to the World Trade Organization in Seattle in November, 1999, heralded a new era for the left that promised greater alliances and solidarity among groups like environmentalists, unions, and anarchists. News from Quebec points to how this alliance was still in place.

The Austin crawl and rally clearly had Black (anarchists), Green (environmentalists), and Red (socialists) participation. But the Blue (organized labor) was lacking, despite efforts on the part of the rally's organizers - the Democracy Coalition - to bring labor in.

The IWW, of course, was present, and so were people involved with the Living Wage campaign. But leaders and members of more traditional unions that make up Austin's Central Labor Council were not so evident. Nationally, the AFL-CIO has come out against the FTAA.

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